I’ve been slowly levelling off an area next to the greenhouse in anticipation of a poly-tunnel, by emptying wheelbarrow loads of turf and clay onto it every time I do some digging. Digging is good for me. It helps keep me thin.
On more than one occasion, Linda has pointed out at, that at the rate I can dig by hand, I’ll be too old to enjoy it by the time I’ve finished it.
‘Why don’t you just hire a digger?’
‘Because I like digging.’
Elias has suggested it too and then Dewy suggested it as well so maybe they’re right?
Dewy even knows a bloke who does it and suggests bringing him to have a look. When he comes, it turns out that he’s a good mate of my godfather’s and Jimmy next door. He was in Linda’s dad’s class at school and knows Linda. Two (or three or four) heads are better than one – I can’t do it all on my own any more. It’s these threads of local serendipity, transcending class and generation that might be the only hope as totalitarianism creeps in.
The plan is to dig out an area above the barn for new beds, then use the turf to level off the area next to the greenhouse for the poly-tunnel.
Again, it’s Linda that suggests doing it the other way round – the poly-tunnel above the stable and beds at the top. On weighing it up, both Dewy and I agree. Dewy points out that I’ll need to use the tractor and tipping trailer to shift the turf that Dave digs out.
I have two weeks off. Under normal circumstances, normal people would be off on holiday but this is what I’d be doing anyway (only with careful social distancing & hand-washing innit – is food essential?). I was never normal anyway (maybe I should write a song like Winnie-the-Pooh? Sick of being Normal, tiddely-pom, the more it goes, tiddely-pom, just another one in a million, tiddely-pom.)
The day arrives and the tractor is stiff from under-use. I have to jump up and down on the thin pedal to free the brakes. Dave digs out the bottom area and piles up the turf. I then have to reverse the tractor and trailer round a tight corner. He fills the trailer then I have to drive forward and reverse again onto the top bit.
I can’t do it. I’ve never reversed a trailer before. It’s like cutting your hair in the mirror. I have a reversing dyslexia. I’m the weak link in the operation. I’m slowing things down. Dewy patiently guides me. I slowly (and I mean slowly) improve as the day goes on. The hydraulics work perfectly and again I marvel at the impeccable 1954 engineering. By the end of the day the backs of my legs are sore from the edge of the tractor seat and I get a small taste of how gruelling real farming might be.
When we’ve finished, Linda comes in to have a look and say hello to Dave.
‘I knew your grandad. I was in your dad’s class at school.’ There’s something tender about the moment, which encompasses three generations of small Northern town ordinariness.
Linda marvels at the large cleared-out area.
‘I must be the only person who gets excited about a patch of soil.’ She says.
‘Not so.’ Disagrees Dewy.
Meanwhile, things are moving on nicely elsewhere. The first lot of brassicas are in and courgettes, beans and tomatoes are coming on a pace in the greenhouslet. Gwen is keeping up with weeding, watering, planting and potting-on and Phil has got five windows in the greenhouse (freebies blagged by Linda from the factory at the bottom of her street – they would just have been skipped otherwise). Dewy has nearly finished the drainage system at the bottom of the field beds.
I’ve finished the strip of path for the new bed at the bottom and the re-purposed wild flower bed is all planted up. The finest organic rhubarb on earth is ready to start harvesting. We’re on track to increase production and have quite a few plants to pass on. The longer-term goal is to sell them. The short-term aim is to establish a local distribution network – local food for local people – plot to plate innit.
Apparently, a race of lizard aliens have secretly taken over the world. 5G is going to zap our brains and all is not what it seems with the virus. I’m personally not an Icke supporter but I value the right to evaluate his spoutings for myself. He is now removed from YouTube and various other platforms. Is this not censorship? Is it not the antithesis of democracy? Lots of other videos are also removed. I would love to know whether there’s a correlation between the flu-jab and susceptibility to the virus – I can’t find any evidence on it.
The government’s centralised coronavirus app is developed by American tech giant Pivotal/VMware. It already courts controversy with regard to its efficacy and its ability to harvest detailed personal information above and beyond its original purpose. I certainly won’t be downloading it.
The 75th anniversary of VE day comes and the UK goes bunting-blighty mad. A full-on mock WW2 street-party fest where the government endorses mass gatherings to effectively knock back several weeks of lock-down effort by ignoring social distancing. The inference is that mighty-mighty-brexit-blighty is celebrating a great victory against the baddest of baddies. Because Britain is so great, Britons are actually protected from the virus. Swathes of dicks fall for it. Maybe they’re celebrating the fact that the UK has gone right to the top of the world hit parade – the highest number of deaths per million population in the world. Meanwhile, the social care sector, despite lots of media attention, is on the verge of collapse.
Every possible common-sense step, based on best international practice has been spectacularly fucked-up and Mail-readers et al still have faith in the buffoons. The exquisite irony of the ‘E’ in VE standing for Europe is almost too much. Maybe I’m too harsh. They’re just people. They’re sick of being cooped up and like me, a lot of them have lost all faith in the govt (except I never had any in the first place).
Step one btw, is to lock-down ALL borders. Avoid all unnecessary entry into the country and quarantine and test ALL those who come in. The UK has simply not done this at all. They then announce a few paltry measures at airports which in isolation (without also doing it for ferries and the channel tunnel) are worse than useless. I feel several COC* awards coming on.
*Cunt of the Century
How important is writing in the grand scheme of things? I love hearing about successful authors like Dickens and others, even though I hardly ever read.
I made a contract with myself to document the year prospectively and that tenacious streak in me feels duty-bound to see it through. I already found my style when I wrote the first book and now this is the second. I had to decide whether to be true to myself or sugar-coat it and I decided on the former after advice from friends like Sandra, Khany and Ruth. I never ever anticipated such a portentous event as the coronavirus pandemic.
I love the opportunities for metaphor; crypticism; allegory; innuendo; assonance; literary rule-breaking; literary twat-tantrums and hidden reference afforded by writing.
Lots of spritual writing uses metaphor, koans being a notable example. I was once shocked to hear my meditation teacher refer to Buddhism as a benign dictatorship but now I get where he was coming coming from, especially after being re-united with Don Juan. Carlos has to be tricked, because he’s so stubborn and thick. Rumi’s line ‘In the amplitude of god’s earth, why have you fallen asleep in a prison’ is one of my favourites.
There is true horror for so many in this outbreak and I HAVE to reflect that. It’s deliberately unhinged and as close to the edge as can be. Every word is carefully chosen and I take responsibility for what I write. My all-transcending maxim is ‘Above all be kind’. I write without malice, but that doesn’t mean kissing the arse of people acting like dicks.
Crises blacken the humour and mine is pretty black – certain poetic opportunities are just too irresistible. Paradoxically, it’s esteemed colleagues who tell me not to tone it down. I write about people with love and implicit consent in order to big them up and portray them as the giant characters that they are. My Vincent Black Lightning records were Songs from The Underbelly and the underbelly is where I write from.
I am literally an arrow’s shot away from the house where Paul Abbott, author of Shameless lived. His experiences of life on the edge, in a Burnley council house were his inspiration.
Despite passing delusions of non-English heritage, I am Burnley through and through. My pleas for pies, hash browns and kisses fall on deaf ears, but I am offered things and I see things on my streets that are a million miles from the streets of many other towns. I have XXX stories and maybe I need to move sideways towards my more Shameless peasant roots. I could sit down and write purely from personal experience all day, every day for the rest of my life. Compared to France and Denmark, dull England hardly gets a look-in when it comes to smouldering passion.
If I’m suddenly unable to write freely about a certain area of my life, then maybe it’s time to quit that area? The office record player isn’t really the office record player. It’s my 60s Voix de son Maitre that Louise bought me for Christmas and Roland Lumby repaired. I took it in purely to record a clip for the recruitment film. I spread out a few 7″ singles as a metaphor for work-life balance and the 3 musos in the office. Each record is carefully placed – Thatcher on the left (any doctors in the world done a Peel session?) and Teenage Kicks on the right – an essential reference to Derry. In turn, the Derry Girls literary device uses the obvious comparison of cool Irish kids forced to hang around with a simpering English prick. I think my cryptic metaphors are prob wasted and maybe I should save them for the first novel?
Nothing hasty mind. Plenty of time to think. I’m reminded of the first chapter of Journey to Ixtlan – Reaffirmation from the world around us. I’m looking for guidance – asking the f’ing universe and it seems like every nodding blade of grass; every emerging seedling; every bit of birdsong; every record on the radio and every song lyric is shouting the answer.
My favourite time is here. The week surrounding the May full moon is blissfully hot and sunny. I glamp on the ranch in a Boy’s Own stylee in the van. No vehicle is more perfect. The week is a buccolic heady haze. I really can see the morning sun come over the horizon from my bed. I am reminded of my festival-inspired frugal routine where everything is simple and well organised. The well is the fridge and a single cold tap on a water butt is adequate. I have everything I need and what better place to have breakfast, than with the company of the joyfully singing birds and that stunning view.
The evening arrives and I have everything planned – after a sterling répas, I quietly watch the light fade. The twinkling street lights from the town below take over and finally the magnificent golden moon slips from between the trees every bit as beautiful as I anticipated.